Cardiologist-backed bill focused on the heart health of South Asian Americans gains momentum

New legislation designed to boost the heart health of South Asian communities in the United States is one step closer to being signed into law.

The South Asian Heart Health Awareness and Research Act of 2022 (H.R. 3771) was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on July 27 by a vote of 237 to 192. It has now been sent to the Senate, where it was referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

The bill would authorize a total of $10 million to be spent on researching heart disease among South Asian Americans and increasing overall awareness of this important topic. While $1 million would go toward funding clinical research annually from 2023 to 2027, another $1 million would go toward reaching out to South Asian Americans and educating them on the importance of prevention.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, who has been working to push this legislation through Congress for years, was the bill’s original sponsor. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. of New Jersey has been another vocal supporter, speaking in favor of the bill’s passage on the House floor before representatives voted.  

“This bill is a bipartisan, common-sense approach to an undeniable heart health and research gap for the South Asian American community,” Pallone said in a statement. “As a representative of one of one of the largest South Asian communities in the country, this bill is necessary to reverse the disproportionate impact that heart disease has on South Asian Americans. It allows states to direct culturally appropriate resources to communities disproportionately impacted by heart disease through grants and supports research efforts on cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and other heart health-related ailments among at-risk populations.”

“This is the culmination of years of work from both inside and outside Congress to address one of the most devastating silent killers of South Asian Americans in our country,” added Jayapal. “With the passage of my bill, the House of Representatives continues to live up to its commitment of being a people’s body that responds to the challenges that different communities face. To South Asian Americans across the country, we hope that the passage of this bill is a meaningful sign that diverse representation matters and that your engagement, advocacy and participation in our democracy can bring meaningful progress for communities everywhere.”

Rep. Lori Trahan of Massachusetts also shared her support of the bill, saying Congress has “an obligation” to reach patients who may be especially vulnerable to cardiovascular disease.

“I’m proud to support this legislation that targets awareness and prevention programs among South Asian Americans, many of whom call communities across the Third District home,” she said in a statement. “I look forward to continuing our work to get this legislation through the Senate and signed into law by the President.”

Cardiologists and interventional cardiologists show their support

The Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions (SCAI) has shared its “strong support” of the bill, pointing to World Health Organization (WHO) statistics that say South Asians make up 50% of the world’s cardiovascular deaths. The group also noted that South Asian Americans are four times more likely to develop heart disease than the country’s general population. South Asian Americans also face a higher risk of experiencing an acute myocardial infarction before the age of 50, the group added.

“This bill is a positive step towards addressing the heart health crisis afflicting South Asian communities,” SCAI President Sunil V. Rao, MD, said in a letter to House and Senate leaders.

The American College of Cardiology (ACC) has also supported this legislation over the years, describing a previous version of the bill as one of the organization’s top legislative priorities. The heart health of South Asian Americans was also the subject of a cover story in the ACC’s Cardiology magazine back in 2019.

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